Within the last year I have decided that it is impossible for me to believe that a canonical interpretation of Scripture can support gay marriage. Marriage as a union between a man and a woman for the purpose of child bearing is deeply founded in a canonical and traditional theology of the body, ecclesiology, eschatology, and even a general Christological framework as it has been understood throughout Christian and Jewish time and space. Of course our theological understandings and hermeneutics based on cultural change always open us up to rethinking things over time (usually for the purpose of justice and peace), but it has to be grounded in strong Biblical precedent and should be able to show that in the long run it will create more peace and unity in the church and the general human family. What is often downplayed in our society is that personal conviction acted out upon society often creates more harm, division, and violence then it is worth. Of course, there have also been times in history where personal conviction turns into communal conviction, and that, along with strong Biblical precedent for that conviction improves society (abolition of slavery as an example).
In the case of gay marriage however there is simply not enough canonical evidence or support from the global church to change our understanding of marriage, nor is there as much at stake for LGBTQ couples. As oppressive as marriage inequality is (implicit with it is societal homophobia which often isolates and damages LGBTQ people, particularly in small rural communities), it is not forced labor or sex trafficking children. That being said, within the western world I support civil based unions/marriages with their central values being monogamy, fidelity, and mutual love. Within this generalized view of marriage, western culture is able counteract individual inequality. From a Christian perspective however this cultural definition is simply too much of an alteration from the traditional Christian and Jewish understandings and in the long run will do more harm than good if it continues to be forcibly globalized (or at least strongly encouraged with sanctions for those countries who refuse to oblige. See “Global Culture Wars” by R.R. Reno, First Things April 2014). What has happened in the past few weeks with World Vision is a great example of the harm that can come from forcing a large majority of people into a different value system they are not comfortable with (regardless of whether their response was right or wrong).
Holding to this stance also makes me a bit of a hypocrite. As someone who has recently become engaged, forming a biological lineage for God’s glory is often the last thing on my mind. I am in love with my future wife, and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. She is the one I ache to be with, and desire to share my thoughts and space with more than anyone else. She is my best friend, my confidant, and the object of my lust. From a Christian perspective this has only limited relevance to what marriage is about. Occasionally I look into her eyes and perceive a future matriarch who has both the strength and wisdom to lead our children and grandchildren into their own maturation. But this is often an afterthought.
It is in these moments where I think about how difficult it must to be an LGTBQ person trying to live the traditional Christian life. Our culture inundates us with what a good life must be. A happy life is a life where finding romantic love and sexual fulfillment are a must have. Leading a life of celibacy is foolishness, and marriage for the central purpose of procreation is not even on the radar. Marriage, even for the general purpose of forming a better world is barely even on the radar!
We have narrowed the purpose of life down to individual relationality, with very little focus on the greater good of a society.
We boast in the glory and goodness of human rights, yet ignore what it means to have a responsibility to our family and the formation of our Children (traditionally this is why marriage has offered tax breaks). As long as all civil services are generically equal and you don’t directly harm or infringe upon anyone else you are free to do whatever you want. As someone who has been heavily influenced by modern values I cringe when I think of the unfair advantage that comes from being a heterosexual male. From the Christian perspective I am allowed to be married for the purpose of procreation, while someone from the LGBTQ community is called to live a life of celibacy. My wife will have to bear our children, while at the biological level I am simply called to provide the sperm. These realities seem to be extraordinarily unfair, yet this is the life we are called to as Christians.
The life of Christ seems to only further support a certain level of submission to forces of inequality. Throughout the New Testament we see a calling to take up our cross and imitate Christ’s suffering despite the reality of inequality in the world. 1 Peter 2:18 calls for those in slavery to “submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.” As oppression becomes increasingly more implicit within western society, and the insidious ideology of self-autonomy continues to pervade, the Christian tension between submitting to what God’s Word has to say on the nature of the world, and working to provide individual compassion and care will only increase.